Talk in Tuscany at this time of year is all about oil – the time of the harvest, the amount of olives collected, and finally the ‘liquid gold’ itself – Tuscany’s beloved cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil.
Harvest is done when the olives are a nice mix of ripe (but not overly so) and just-about-ripe.
Entering into the olive oil cellars at harvest time, we hear the rhythmic hum and thunk-thunk of machinery carefully turning the olives into Tuscany’s most prized liquid (well, favourite non-alcoholic liquid at least).
Baskets of the just-picked olives are being bought in from the nearby fields to be pressed immediately. An older gentleman who has worked here for more harvest years than he can recall stands at the end of the olive oil line watching the precious golden drops fall into the receptacle to await bottling.
The olives are harvested around October-November, just after the grapes are going through their first fermentation in the wine cellar. Harvesting after this time runs the risk that the oil will be too acidic, as to be classified as ‘extra virgin olive oil’, the oil must have an acidity level of less than 0.8%.
The word ‘virgin’ appropriately refers to oil the oil’s purity, in that virgin oil cannot be processed or blended. Extra virgin oil is from the first pressing of the olives, a cold pressing.
Extra virgin olive oil is also considered as a natural medicine – it reduces cholesterol, it is good for your heart and is full of vitamins and antioxidants. This is particularly so if the oil is not heated, as a rise in temperature can alter the properties of the oil. As such many traditional Tuscan recipes will see EVO oil drizzled atop food so that it maintains all its health benefits.
If you’re not up for tasting the oil by sipping a teaspoon of it, the most typical way to taste an olive oil is either just by dipping in a piece of bread or with a recipe known in Tuscany as ‘fettunta’. It literally translates to ‘oily slice’ as you take a piece of Tuscan bread (which is saltless), toast it lightly by placing it in the oven or over an open fire, and then drizzle it with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
But the best way to enjoy just-pressed extra virgin olive oil is definitely on a stunning Tuscan estate in the Tuscany countryside!
You too can enjoy tastings of traditional Tuscany products at Tuscan villa estates owned by historic Tuscan families, we have the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Walk through the Tuscan countryside and visit a famous Tuscan villa on the Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Expand your Tuscan horizons on the small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, including lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.